How not to get or transmit Covid (and flu and bronchiolitis) at Christmas

Here we are again, for the third consecutive year, awaiting family and friends reunions at the end of the year to avoid becoming a place of contagion not only from Covid (whose ninth wave has started well) but also of the flu (which seems to be off to a strong start this year) and bronchiolitis (the epidemic among toddlers has been particularly virulent since late October).

The challenge is multiple. First, it’s about not getting infected: no one wants to get sick during the holiday season. Contracting Covid, even if you are in good health, means above all that you expose yourself to the risk of long-term Covid with sometimes dramatic consequences for the quality of life of those affected.

Then it is about not infecting others: for the same reasons, but also because among these others there are elderly people, immunocompromised people or even people who have not been vaccinated (because they are too young or unfavorable for vaccination), who are particularly vulnerable to infection .

Finally, it should be remembered that both the Covid and the flu and bronchiolitis are always the cause of hospitalization if not death. In a context of medical and hospital saturation, any serious infection adds to the health burden. In other words, participating in the fight against viral circulation is showing a form of health solidarity.

Now let’s get down to business. If you are familiar with organizing Christmas Eves and Christmas lunches, you know that to enjoy the moment, the preparations count. In terms of Covid and other diseases, it’s the same.

Come on, let’s start with the retro planning.

Preparations: Vaccination

The first thing to do, as it takes two weeks for vaccination to be fully effective: see your doctor or pharmacist to…

The flu vaccine. While desirable for everyone, it is highly recommended for:

  • people over 65;
  • pregnant people;
  • people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, COPD;
  • obese people;
  • those around immunocompromised people or infants.

The booster dose of the Covid vaccine. It’s a bit of a labyrinth there… In summary:

If you are over 12 and under 60, have no health problems and are not expecting a child, make sure you have taken the booster dose – the 3e dose. That’s for the principle because if you want it’s possible to get a 4e dose to put a coin back into your immunity machine. In addition, François Braun, the Minister of Health, confirmed on the microphone of BFMTV on December 4 “everyone can get vaccinated”, implicit: make a 4e dose. This is very welcome, especially with the bivalent vaccines that are extra effective against severe forms of the Omicron variant infections currently in circulation.

Otherwise, here are the different scenarios that will make you eligible for the 4e dose, even at the 5e if you did the 4e in the spring (it is necessary to respect a period of three to six months between doses):

  • you are older than 60;
  • you live in a residential facility for dependent elderly (Ehpad) and a long-term care unit (USLD);
  • you are at risk of a severe form of the disease (due to immunosuppression, pregnancy from the 1is trimester or a chronic pathology);
  • you live nearby or have regular contact with immunocompromised or vulnerable people.

Please note it is very possible to do both vaccines, flu and Covid, at the same time.

Preparations: invitations

Then it’s time to decide with whom and when to share festive moments. Ideal for avoiding family mingling and large gatherings, New Year’s Eve in small groups is even more than welcome this year.

One way to reduce risk and spend time with a few more people is to do things twice. Take, for example, a couple with a child. He can spend New Year’s Eve on the 24th with the limited family of one of the two parents, then have lunch on the 25th with that of the other parent. (Well, we know there are as many possibilities as there are families and that negotiations aren’t always the easiest or most peaceful, so let’s settle that between you!)

As a reminder, to reduce the risk of infant brochiolitis, often caused by RSV and other respiratory viruses that can go almost unnoticed in adults, it is best to limit infants’ contact with adults outside the foyer. In other words, the more intimate the first Christmas, the better. (Same, we’ll let you negotiate with the grandparents…)

Further preparations for D-10

To avoid the risk of infecting someone on D-Day, it is of course best not to get infected yourself. The viruses we are concerned with here are viruses that are all transmitted in the same way: by droplets and aerosols.

So if it is clearly impossible to protect yourself 100%, it is possible to effectively reduce the risk by systematically wearing a mask (preferably FFP2) in closed places, especially in public transport, shops (obviously press this moment), at work or school, and avoiding gatherings such as concerts or parties. (You have a good excuse to skip your company’s Christmas pot.)

D-day

The boxes of the advent calendar are almost all open and we arrive at the 24. In the days before, a PCR test must be done in case of symptoms. If it is positive, you can immediately isolate yourself and not cancel at the last minute what you had planned.

Then on the 23rd or better, the 24th, it’s a self-test for everyone. Clearly, positive cases and cases of close contact are better off isolating themselves. Also in case of complaints (fever, aches, headache, cough, sore throat, loss of taste and/or smell, runny nose or stuffy nose) it is also better to stay at home (or cancel the festivities if you get trouble). Not only are the self-tests for detecting Covid-19 not 100% reliable, but these symptoms could be those of the flu or a winter virus that may be responsible for bronchiolitis.

Once the evening has started, there is not much more to do than to ventilate as much as possible, of course. It’s cold, of course, but it’s time to pull out your ugliest Christmas sweater and a few minutes will improve the air quality. The most cautious can equip themselves with a CO sensor2: as soon as the counter exceeds 800 ppm, it means that the window should be opened.

Finally, 48-72 hours after the end of the festivities and after you have participated in one or more family gatherings, it may be appropriate to get tested to isolate yourself if you have been infected despite all your efforts.

And we’ll do it again on the 31st!

Thanks to dr. Michaël Rochoy, GP in Outreau, co-founder of the Stop Postillons collectives and On the side of science.

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